Earlier this term a small group of Year 13 students – born in 1993/1994 (Yahoo was born in 1995, Google in 1996, Facebook in 2004 and Youtube in 2005) – asked me if I could order Spanish newspapers so that they could have authentic materials to read in Spanish.
They were asking for actual printed newspapers to be brought in daily from Spain.
Since access to Spanish dailies is somewhat limited in Nottingham, and given that all these pupils had high end mobile devices with 3G and Wi-Fi and access to high speed broadband services both at school and at home, I felt at a loss having to remind them that they could easily access authentic Spanish materials off the internet anytime, anywhere.
“But Sir, when you’re on the internet it’s difficult to concentrate, what with Facebook, BBC sports… I’d much rather read the actual paper” came the reply.
My students, like yours I would assume, seem to be incredibly well versed in using the internet in general and social networking technologies in particular for their own personal use and leisure but appear unable to associate these technologies with their formal education – they are simply not used to using social networking sites and the wealth of opportunities they bring for academic purposes.
And this is not their fault. It’s ours. Ever since they have enjoyed access to the social internet, we teachers have never seen it as anything other than a threat and have almost always reacted by putting in place draconian filtering policies, sticking our fingers in our ears and refusing to listen to anyone who dared suggest a possible pedagogical value.
As long as this remains the case we will not be teaching our pupils to make the most of these new opportunities to enhance learning, and therefore we will be failing to fulfill our primary purpose: to educate.
I am sure that we can all find reasons why we have felt obliged to do this in the past. Bullying, for example, is often cited as a concern. But bullying is not confined to cyberspace and in the real world we tackle it by educating our pupils. Why not take the same approach when it comes to the social internet?
Let’s please have more zones of proximal development and less paranoia in this argument, because while we continue to overstate our pupils’ safety we are neglecting their education.
Picture by Old Shoe Woman